Scooters Offer Chance to Rethink Urban Rights of Way

William Fulton on Aug 29, 2019

From Central Park West to San Diego’s hip North Park neighborhood, cities are removing parking spaces, replacing them with bike lanes, and getting pushback from residents and business owners.

In urban neighborhoods across the country, well-capitalized electric scooter companies are invading, sometimes met with support from policymakers who see them as a useful transportation mode and sometimes met with resistance from residents and politicians who view them as a safety hazard and little more than metal street litter.

What’s really going on here? Depending on how you look view transportation, bikes and scooters are the key to future, clean urban mobility or a sideshow that distracts from maintaining mobility across large metropolis. But I think the basic problem – the reason we’re having a hyper-emotional discussion about these transportation modes on both sides – is that we’re not framing the issue right.

The problem isn’t that bikes and scooters are necessary or that they’re a menace. The problem is that, in urban locations across America, we need an intermediate mode of travel between cars and walking – an easy to way to travel between a half-mile and two miles. In the transit business, this is called the “first and last mile” problem. Cars are a hassle and walking is too far, so these intermediate modes need a right of way, whether they are bikes, scooters, Segways or vehicles that haven’t been invented yet.

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‘Travelers Like Me Are Loving the World to Death’

 

Author Henry Wismayer

The sun was still beating down when, one late afternoon earlier this year, I arrived at a dust bowl of baked earth where there should have been water. Lake Abbe, a soda lake on the border between Ethiopia and Djibouti, wasn’t where it was supposed to be. The local Afar people told me that an Ethiopian dam had stanched its inflow to irrigate a sugarcane plantation, and now the shore had receded to the horizon. Lake Abbe is the endpoint of the Awash River, a vital source of water in an ecosystem that is growing drier as local temperatures rise and the global climate crisis deepens.

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Why inclusive cities start with safe streets

An aerial photograph of a street showing people walking, riding bikes, and driving.

Author y

The fight for more equitable cities is taking to the streets—literally. New street design guidelines from the American Society for Landscape Architecture (ASLA) articulate why.

Last week, ASLA released universal design guidelines for neighborhoods, streets, parks and plazas, playgrounds, and gardens—a range of scales and projects for which landscape architects are regularly called upon to design. By creating this best-practices guide, ASLA is making it easier for designers from all disciplines, elected officials, and everyday people to understand what an inclusive and accessible public realm looks like. More importantly, the guidelines are a call to action.

“If we want everyone to participate in public life, we must design and build an inclusive public realm that is accessible to all,” the guidelines state. “Public life can’t just be available to the , young, or healthy.”

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Friends of the Alto Tunnel

Author Rick Coates

I had some time yesterday before the well attended (250 people) Friends of the Alto Tunnel event to walk from the San Rafael SMART station to the Larkspur SMART station and check out the construction of the extension.  All of the track, save that at the San Rafael transit center is in and switches are being installed.  Ballast has been laid but is not yet even with the top of the ties.

The rails for the 2nd Street crossing have been attached to ties and the assembly is sitting on top of the already laid rails through the Transit Center ready to move to the roadway which will be closed over the weekend.  Ballast will then be added to the rails in the Transit Center and made even with the ties.

The Larkspur Station appears complete except for communications and vending machines and connecting roadways, parking and pedestrian walks.

The bicycle path is nearly complete and connected at Anderson Ave. to the existing trail to Larkspur.

When the construction is complete, signal and PTC testing will still need to be done.  Nonetheless it seems likely that the project will be completed as scheduled by the end of 2019.

I also walked Anderson Ave.  It has a wide sidewalk and unprotected bike lanes on each side.  Traffic is heavy and moving at 30 to 40 MPH.  Death trap.  Bicyclist tend to use the sidewalk.  Anderson is walled on each side forming an urban canyon that traps the auto and truck fumes making for an unpleasant and unhealthy walk or ride.  Traffic engineers should be required to walk or bike to work every day.

The Friends of the Alto Tunnel event featured a talk by Bob Ravasio, Mayor of Corte Madera who suffered serious injuries when a driver forced him of the edge of the road recently.  Six months in the hospital.  Opening the Alto Tunnel would connect to very long sections of bicycle trail from Sausalito to San Anselmo and avoid the present curvy, steep and dangerous “Bike Route” over Camino Alto.  The event also featured a film promoting an open Alto Tunnel which will soon be posted on the websites of Friends of the Alto Tunnel, the Marin County Bicycle Coalition and EcoRing.

 

Wider Highway 101 in California redwood grove is blocked by judge

Author Bob Egelko May 20, 2019

A longtime state proposal to widen a 1-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 101 in Richardson Grove State Park in Humboldt County to make room for bigger trucks has hit a roadblock in federal court, where a judge says Caltrans lacks adequate plans to protect ancient redwoods that soar 300 feet above the highway.

For the third time since the project was proposed in 2007, the state Department of Transportation assessed it in 2017 and concluded it would cause “no significant impact” to the environment. But U.S. District Judge William Alsup of San Francisco said Caltrans had brushed aside evidence that the road-widening could suffocate some redwoods, cause root disease in others and worsen damage to trees hit by trucks that skidded off the highway.

The department’s studies have failed to rule out “significant risks to the lives of these giants,” some of which are 3,000 years old, Alsup said in a ruling Friday that rejected the 2017 assessment. He said Caltrans had also given short shrift to the noise generated by heavier trucks and its effect on park visitors.

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